Patrick Norris first arrived at Grey Hawk Golf Club for the same reason most people do: to play golf. Acquaintances suggested he check out the 18-hole course in LaGrange in the fall of 2003, shortly after he moved to North Olmsted and took a position as national sales director for a financial-services company.
The 42-year-old was looking for daily-fee golf courses and kept hearing about the abundance of options in Lorain County. “I started mentioning that to some folks, and they said, ‘You need to try this new golf course out in LaGrange,’ ” he says.
Norris enjoyed playing the Robert von Hagge-designed parkland-style course, which he discovered was a mere 15-minute drive from his apartment. But it was the people who lived in the surrounding golf-course community — a mix of single professionals, families and empty-nesters in occupations ranging from airline pilot to corporative executives — that convinced him to purchase a 2,250-square-foot townhouse there the following spring. “There’s not a lot of pretentiousness,” he says. “Everyone is pretty well accepted for who they are.” And it was the beauty of a lot overlooking the seventh fairway and green — including two ponds in the rough — that inspired him to buy the property and build a 3,000-square-foot contemporary home two years later, before he even sold the townhouse. Now his favorite way to end a warm-weather weekday isn’t by teeing off, but by relaxing on his three-tier deck or on one of three patios near the ponds.
“It’s the kind of place that you really like to sit in at night, have a cocktail and watch the sun go down,” he says.
Norris is one of many people who are drawn to Lorain County’s golf-course communities. The golf nuts who move into these resort-like enclaves so they can play where they live also stay for a variety of other reasons. They like the sense of community fostered by a shared passion for the sport, the social activities, the variety of housing options and the beauty of a skillfully landscaped and expertly maintained green space — one that isn’t threatened by the development of a shopping center or subdivision.
Like Norris, Tom and Mary Vaughan arrived in Northeast Ohio as the result of a career move. Tom, a 62-year-old senior project manager for architectural-engineering firm Heery International, was transferred from Columbus to the company’s downtown Cleveland office in 2005. A year in an Avon Lake condominium convinced the couple to stay on the fringes of the suburban West Side, where the snow and traffic are lighter and lots are still available. After years of living in spec homes that Tom “tweaked,” the Vaughans wanted to custom-build a house. They were impressed by the variety of home styles and architecture at Red Tail Golf Club, 12 subdivisions of cluster homes and single-family residences built around an 18-hole championship golf course in Avon that attracts singles, families, empty-nesters and retirees.
Tom and Mary eventually chose a quarter-acre lot overlooking a manmade pond and began designing a 3,100-square-foot contemporary home with an open floor plan, big kitchen and first-floor master suite. Mary says the house is across the street from — not on — the 13th hole, a location that affords more backyard privacy.
“The sunsets we get in our backyard are spectacular,” adds the 60-year-old membership-development director for the School Employees Lorain County Credit Union.
Tom jokes that living in a golf-course community hasn’t helped his or Mary’s golf games. But it has improved their social life. Tom is a Red Tail Homeowners Association board member who serves as liaison to its architectural-review committee; Mary is president of the club’s Women’s Golf Association and a member of the common-areas maintenance committee. They talk of mens’, ladies’ and couples’ golf leagues, special events such as the annual spring fashion show and dinner, and “Cheeseburgers in Paradise” — Jimmy Buffett-themed parties where margaritas and burgers are downed to live music on the clubhouse patio. Weekends are spent golfing and noshing in the clubhouse’s main dining room, which offers a menu that ranges from steaks and fish to pasta and lamb. Although Red Tail is a private golf club that counts lawyers and business-owners among its resident members, the atmosphere on the course, driving range and two tennis courts, at the outdoor pool and in the clubhouse (which also boasts a grill room, bar, locker rooms and fitness room) is casual and relaxed.
“It’s not cliquish at all,” Tom says.
Norris describes a similar ambiance at Grey Hawk. A typical summer weekend begins at 4 p.m. Friday with a flurry of phone calls and e-mails, all inquiring about who is teeing off after work with whom and when. Residents and members have a series of standing tee times on weekend afternoons. More often than not, everyone ends up hanging out at the clubhouse, often in Nine Bistro, a restaurant that serves everything from burgers and wings to seafood pasta and steak in a casual environment. “We have a beautiful deck that overlooks the 18th fairway and green,” he adds — the location for a Friday-night deck party featuring a band and dinner specials that’s open to the public. Annual members-only events include a luau that celebrates the club’s August 2003 opening and a September club tournament and clambake.
The fun continues outside the clubhouse. A schedule of house parties has evolved over the years — one Grey Hawk resident hosts an annual Halloween party, for example, while another stages a St. Patrick’s Day bash. Norris says his home has become the place for the annual Cinco de Mayo celebration, a tradition he began less than a month after moving to Grey Hawk.
“Any holiday that gives us an excuse to get together,” he says.
Of course, residents don’t have to play golf to get into the swing of things in a golf-course community. Pete Bodonyi estimates that half of the people living at Legacy Pointe, a development of townhouses, detached cluster homes and single-family homes built around the Sweetbriar public golf course in Avon Lake, are non-golfers just like he and wife, Joyce. The closest the 68-year-old president and 66-year-old treasurer of MPC Inc., a Westlake manufacturer of custom noise-control panels, come to playing the course is walking its cart paths.
Instead, the couple moved into the development six years ago to enjoy its maintenance-free lifestyle, complete with residents-only outdoor pool, tennis courts and fitness center. The Bodonyis customized their 3,300-square-foot detached cluster home constructed by Sweetbriar owner and Legacy Pointe developer Kopf Builders (the same company that built their previous home). Builder plans were altered to bump out the back of the structure to accommodate Pete’s baby grand piano and a sunroom.
Activities planned by the homeowners association — an annual progressive dinner and catered clambake, multiple cookouts — gave the Bodonyis plenty of opportunities to meet other residents. They discovered they had much in common with the people in their immediate neighborhood of 42 cluster homes. “We’re all within an 8- to 10-year time span in age,” Pete says. “There’s not only a lot of businessmen, but people who are in that next stage of life.”
Now Pete hangs out with 16 to 20 other guys at the Sweetbriar clubhouse while their wives meet at one of their homes for a monthly evening of bunco. He estimates that he and Joyce eat one meal a week at the clubhouse’s business-casual main dining room. The couple has traded cutting grass and watering flowers for swimming in the development’s pool and relaxing next to the water feature on their own patio.
Although Pete imagines that he and Joyce will take up golf after they both retire, they’re content to watch the tee-to-green action while they barbecue or sip cocktails — at least for now.